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Oreos have cream icing in the middle!

Kelly Conroy
MSM Class of 2013

(9/2011) When being introduced to another person for the first time, you usually ask and answer some basic questions. "What’s your name?" Where are you from?" "What kind of work do you do?" - And other surface level inquiries. It is usually not until you know the other person that "real" conversation begins. This type of interaction is much more interesting and can involve discussing a person’s ideas, beliefs, or subjects that are important to him or her.

I like mixing up the standard conversation once in a while. Sometimes I jump into asking tougher questions from the start. Other times, I offer more personal responses about myself. My favorite response is to state that I am a Middle child.

"Oh, I’m so sorry," was one woman’s response. She had a deeply troubled look on her face and patted me on the shoulder. Did I just tell her that I had contracted a form of cancer? Did I just tell her that my father lost his job? Did I show any negative emotion as I simply stated that I was a "middle child"?

The woman’s response was fairly typical for our society today. She was a "middle" child herself and claimed that she had been "ignored and forgotten" her whole life because she was number 3 out of 5 in the family children line. This woman is my aunt and all of her siblings claim that she adopted the "poor middle child attitude" as a teenager.

Is she right? Are middle children forgotten as a part of the family? I happen to think quite the opposite. Middle children are loved the same amount as the rest of the children, and actually have the perfect position – especially in my family of 5 children. You get to grow up spending time with your older siblings. Then, you can grow up again with the younger siblings as the older ones move out. You do not have the many duties of being the oldest child nor do you receive the excessive attention bestowed on the youngest child. You can learn from your older siblings and be the teacher to your younger siblings. You can be considered old and young. Being in the middle is not only great for family matters but also in many other areas of life.

Imagine that you are invited to a cook-out dinner. All of the guests have arrived and are mingling. Everyone is getting hungry as the hosts prepare the food. Finally, the group is gathered together and grace is said before the meal. You fill your plate with pasta salad, corn, and fresh fruit. You take a hamburger bun and top it with lettuce, tomato, onion, mustard, and ketchup. You look around for the hamburgers themselves, but they are no where to be found. The hosts inform you that they just decided to skip buying and grilling the hamburgers this time.

To your disbelief, more food disasters ensue at this dinner. Cracking pecans results only in empty shells and no pecans. Oreos consist of two chocolate cookies on top of each other with no icing. Even the eggs have been emptied of their contents and only the shells remain.

The middle parts of these foods were forgotten, and disaster is the result. The meat is what makes a hamburger a hamburger! The cream is the best part of an Oreo! Food proves that the Middle is very important!

What is the middle? The middle is "equally distant from extremes." It is perfectly between two opposite ends. The middle can relate to topics as juvenile as food and as important as virtues. Artistotle, a Greek philosopher, explains that virtue aims for an intermediate (middle!) between excess and defect. For example, two sons work for their father on his farm. The younger son asks his father for his inheritance early and his father generously grants his wish. The son goes into town and squanders his money without consideration. The son ends up working a job in which he feeds pigs. He decides to return to his father, beg for mercy, and ask for a job as one of the hired servants. This son did not excel in obtaining the virtue related to dealing with money. The son acted in the excess – spending too much and falling short in taking and so he is called "prodigal." The son was not in the defect, that is, taking too much money and falling short in spending. Therefore, he is not called "mean." The son should have striven for liberality, which is the perfect balance of spending and taking.

The story continues with the father warmly taking the prodigal son back into his home and slaughtering the fattened calf as a feast for the welcoming home party. The older son returns from the fields and is extremely angry with his father. The older son claims that he has always been faithful to his father, yet has never received such treatment as the younger son. The older son did not find the "mean virtue" in regards to anger. He was not "good-tempered," the mean between being "irascible" (prone to outburst of temper) and "inirascible" (always calm even when some emotion is necessary).

The father in the story exemplifies someone who really strove for the "mean" or Middle with regards to virtue. He showed great love in welcoming his younger son with open arms back into his home. Yet, the father was still just in telling his older son that everything he owns belongs to him, even if he gives a celebration feast for the younger son.

With the celebration of Labor Day, workers might sympathize with the sons in this story. Are you the younger son who has chosen a path that has led to low-level work? Are you the older son who does not feel adequately appreciated for his work? The younger son should see that there is value in his work, even if he is feeding pigs. Work was created for humans, and we fulfill one of our human needs by working. If we feed the pigs with the best of our ability, we can find that there is value in all work. The younger son should also have the opportunity to increase his position by dedication to his work. The older son should see that he is getting fair pay and treatment and should not be jealous of his brother. Labor Day is a good time to reflect on how we have value in our work and to ensure that employers and employees are being treated fairly. This Labor Day, we can find the "middle" between being excessive with work and falling into laziness.

The "middle" plays another role in life today as a new school year begins. Elementary and high school might be great, but there are so many reasons to love Middle school! Gone are the days of lugging a backpack around or sticking it into a cubby like in elementary school because lockers are now available. Buying magnetic pencil holders and mirrors, along with locker shelves is too much fun. "Hanging out" by the lockers as you now get to switch to a different class in a different room every hour is definitely a step-up from elementary school. Middle school is more advanced than elementary school with extracurricular activities like football and yearbook, yet it is not as demanding as high school in which exams and papers are a big part of life.

No matter what grade you are in or what you are studying, everyone wants to get into the "middle" of material. The information generally becomes much more interesting after the beginning review chapters, and if you find a subject that you enjoy, time passes without your knowing it. From a teacher’s perspective, the year is usually much easier once the middle is reached. The teacher knows the students better and has learned how to structure the classroom. As a new school year begins, may we congratulate the middle schoolers around us on being in such an opportune time of life and strive to seek the "middle" in our own studies!

Perhaps by now you are thinking that the beginning or the end is really the best. Maybe you’re hoping for the end of this article or maybe the only entertaining part was the beginning. There is usually a lot of excitement in beginnings and sometimes a sense of accomplishment is felt with ends. But do not forget about the anxiety that can accompany beginnings and the sadness that often comes with ends. The middle is associated with the mundane – the time in life when nothing new seems to be happening. You have had your career for years, the children are in middle school, and there is no sign of change in the future. The result is boredom. G.K. Chesterton, an English author of the twentieth century, claimed that "boredom is irreverence for the present!" The present is our "middle" – yesterday is the past and tomorrow is the unknown. What are you doing with your "middle"?

I might be biased about the "middle" because being a middle child has had some great advantages for me. Once, my grandmother decided to take my two younger sisters out to a breakfast and my older brother and sister out to lunch to have special time with her grandchildren. It was obvious that my two younger sisters would attend the breakfast and my older brother and sister would be at the lunch. But with which group did I belong? My grandmother simply invited me to both! ? Indeed, I have felt very blessed in so many different ways being a middle child. I hope that you can find the "middle" in your life too… even if it is just in an Oreo Cookie!

Read other articles by Kelly Conroy